I’m Not A Nazi, I’m Temporarily Disabled

It’s been a sod of a week. I’ve done a lot less running than I should have done. I’ve done a lot more swearing than is strictly necessary, even for me. I’ve accidentally done a Nazi salute. Tony Benn and Bob Crow died. Not a good week at all.

On the other hand, I’ve spent time with lovely people, had the best heart attack on a plate I’d had in ages on Thursday morning only to have it beaten this afternoon, spent quality time with my beautiful wife, run on the Roman Road for the first time this year and made a start on clearing out the jungle in my back garden. Gytha the Chicken is pleased with me, at least.

This was supposed to be my peak week of mileage on my marathon plan. Rest on Monday, 9 miles on Tuesday with some strides slipped in, 13 miles on Wednesday, 5 miles recovery on Thursday, 14 on Friday, 6 on Saturday and 22 today.

I had a problem nearly all week with limited mobility in my right shoulder. I must have slept awkwardly on it on Sunday night because it was sore on Monday morning. There wasn’t a problem with my arms but moving the shoulder led to stabbing pains down the front or the back of the arm depending on whether I wanted to move it backwards or forwards. It became worse each day. Typing on Tuesday was particularly comedic. I couldn’t reach the Y key on the keyboard without moving my right arm with my left hand.

I was coaching on Monday. Mile reps. I still had Sunday’s half marathon PB in my legs so I wasn’t going to be nailing every rep myself. Instead, I ran with the quickest group and paced them round. My Monday group isn’t as quick as Tuesday’s club sessions so I can keep up easily with all of them nearly all the time. What was a brisk pace for me was quite a hard rep for them. It was a really good recovery session for me.

Tuesday was 4 x 6:00 with 3:00 recoveries. Go out in one direction for the first rep and back the way you’ve come on the second. Try to push a little faster so you go beyond your start point. Same again on each successive rep. I found running hard quite difficult because I couldn’t swing both arms freely. I was well off the pace of the quickest group. Only on the final rep did I give it a proper go. I paid for it afterwards.

I had to drive to Lancaster on Wednesday morning after two nights of very poor sleep. I had meetings all day with academics in the Management School. I had to suppress a little yelp of pain very time I shook someone’s hand. I didn’t always succeed. “Hi! I’m Richard from Compass. It’s nice to meet you. Thaaaaaaaaaaarghaaank you for seeing me.”

The drive from Lancaster to Leeds that evening was properly miserable. I couldn’t reach the top of the steering wheel with my right hand until I adjusted the steering column downwards. The wheel was almost between my knees. I still couldn’t use my right arm to turn the wheel but at least I could rest my hand easily on it. Occasionally, I’d forget and drop my right hand from the wheel and whimper or yell or call Christ a cunt.

The thing about an injury like this is that it’s easy to forget you have it. It was seldom painful when I kept the shoulder still or moved it gently so when I was just walking around it was fine. More or less. The problems came when I moved it quickly or further than it wanted to go. When a cheery wave to a friend across the street turns into a Nazi salute and a yell of “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” problems can arise. That’s all I’m saying.

Wednesday night was quite unpleasant. I struggled to eat dinner. I couldn’t quite raise my fork to my mouth. It got to just below my chin before I’d have to dip my head towards the delicious morsel of red snapper with a zesty lemon risotto. My glass of lime and soda was too heavy to lift. I had to leave it on the table and use a long straw.

Bob Crow died. I’m a supporter of strong trades unions playing a part in the running of successful enterprises. I’m really a 70s socialist. I remember learning about mixed economies and free collective bargaining. I don’t much like the class war but I have a soft spot for some class warriors. Bob Crow was one.

I don’t think Tony Benn would ever have taken part in anything so ungentle as class war. He was still an effective and passionate advocate for Labour without ever mounting a personal attack. I heard him speak on several occasions and had a taxi ride with him once. He spent almost the entire journey asking questions about me and what I did and who I was and where I came from and my parents and my family. I said at one point how moved I was by what he’d written when his wife had died and how much it had helped me when I was having some trouble with grieving. I wanted to hear him talk about challenging Roy Hattersley for the deputy leadership or about life in the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet but he just wanted to hear about my life and interests. I’ll miss him but his family and his friends will miss him much, much more.

Good things started to happen on Thursday. Breakfast in the hotel was exceptional. Poached egg, bacon, sausage, black pudding, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, all very tasty. Piss-poor coffee as usual. I have yet to have a good cup of coffee in a hotel in Britain. Slightly odd orange juice. It made getting going after another night of poor sleep that much easier. I’d spent chunks of the awkward hours of Thursday morning really, really wanting to be at home in my own bed with my wife. My heart ached as much as my shoulder. I was using ibuprofen gel to relieve the pain and it didn’t really work. I was hoping for codeine gel. Or heroin gel. Fuck it, I’d have mugged a junkie for a fix at one point shortly after two on Thursday morning.

Thursday’s meetings passed with barely a whimper. “Hi, I’m Richard from Compass. Thank you for see – aargh – seeing me.” The drive home from Leeds took too long and I couldn’t go for my run when I got back but I had an early night without the ibuprofen gel smearing itself onto the bedsheets and pillow cases. I woke on Friday having slept for six uninterrupted hours. I had too much work to do to get out for a run that day.

Saturday marked Heidi and John’s leaving do from Cambridge parkrun. Not that they’re leaving. Heidi is stepping down as event director after four years. There were red wigs for her and fake mohicans and tattoos for John and it was fun. There was running and cake and a visit from PSH and the whole thing was simply marvellous. I had a nice run on heavy legs to log 22:36 for my first parkrun of the year.

In the afternoon, I did the Cambridge University Hare & Hounds’ Roman Road Run. Nine and a half miles from Horseheath to the Beechwoods at the end of Wort’s Causeway in Cambridge. I took it fairly steadily and logged 1:14:46. I was aiming for 1:16:30 so I was pleased. I was 8th home. It’s a handicap run. I was only overtaken by one guy who started 10 minutes behind me and he was flying. He came past on the final downhill stretch on the road once we left the Roman Road itself. I was beaten home by him, two people from my group and four from the group who set off five minutes ahead of me.

Saturday evening was spent at La Mimosa with Andy for his birthday. I’m not usually very sociable. I’m becoming a little more deaf and find it stressful to hear what people are saying in a crowded, noisy room. However, the company was lovely and nobody seemed to mind having to repeat what they were saying when we were trying to have a conversation. It was a late night though and I was very tired this morning. I haven’t run today but I have made a start on clearing out the back garden.

Good stuff and bad this week. It’ll all be over three weeks today. I just want to get it done now. I’m running well when I run. I don’t think missing my long run today is going to matter in the overall scheme of things. I’ve entered the Oakley 20 next Sunday. I’m not going to race it, especially as Becca says it’s a lumpy one which ruined her London Marathon a couple of years ago. I have some clubmates running and I can run around with them chatting all the way and pick up my hoodie to take to Manchester. Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it?

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Week Whatever

I’m definitely losing track of time. My training diary is counting down. I only know how to count up. Subtraction isn’t my thing, man and I’m completely lost. So, it’s eight weeks to go to the race in Manchester and I’m not sure whether I’m in my ninth, tenth or possibly eleventh week of training. Things are becoming slightly weird.

In space, no-one can hear you scream. I’ve seen it on a film poster so it must be true. Hollywood wouldn’t lie to me. When you’re on the Roman Road, everyone in earshot can hear you swear when you almost lose a shoe in ankle-deep mud. I’m afraid I had a sense of humour failure towards the end of my run this afternoon. I had what some would call “a complete paddy” in what might pass for a paddy field. I’m not sure anyone would want to eat the rice grown at the top of Babraham Road but I think you could actually get a crop there right now.

In the gym, quite a lot of people can hear you whimper. I wore new running tights this morning. They had unexpected seams. There is nothing worse than a seam where you least expect it. Where I least expected it this morning was rubbing my right testicle. The Laws of Comedy dictate that the left bollock is always funnier than the right bollock. If my left bollock had been so exquisitely chafed that I didn’t actually notice any pain until hot water ran onto it in the shower, I would have been been standing in that cubicle bent over with laughter. I wasn’t. I was sucking in a breath and trying to avoid the eye of the nice lady standing next to me. I mean, what would I say to her? That wouldn’t get me slapped or thrown out of the gym, I mean.

Chafing issues are something people warn you about but you always forget about them when they haven’t happened for a while. You can avoid them with Vaseline or BodyGlide. I would probably have been able to avoid it if I’d slathered it on down there. The trouble is that I would have needed enough of it to leave a highly suspicious stain on my new breeks. I’d have ended up with one of my mates asking me if I’d a little accident. “Well, you can claim it’s just Vaseline but it certainly looks like you’ve shat yourself.”

I also have the Garmin Scar. The chest strap for my heart rate monitor has left a particularly impressive welt across my breast bone area. You don’t see that in the brochures. No, you see attractive men and women running around, getting a nice glow on (not a euphemism, possibly a special effect) and you don’t see the after effects of a three hour run without first having slapped on the BodyGlide. It’d be enough to put your off your dinner, as if the sight of me topless isn’t bad enough. David Beckham, I am not. Nor am I David Tennant whom I have seen photographed almost wearing his kilt this week. I’m not even Vladimir Putin who would stand more chance of being a gay icon if he didn’t keep saying stupid things about homosexuality and stopped being a complete pillock. I’ve forgotten the Russian for pillock. I hope someone will remind me.

Next week, Week Whatever 2, I’ll do some more running around and I’ll certainly remember to slap on enough Vaseline to excite the Village People and give Vladimir some cause for concern. No more whimpering in the showers for this old man. Nossir.

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On Mutlow Hill

I’ve done a couple of really long training runs this month, both of them on Fleam Dyke and the Roman Road. I love being out on these old, old routes. Fleam Dyke is a Saxon construction which runs for four or five miles south east from just outside Fulbourn. It’s more or less parallel to the Roman Road to the south and you run along the top of it. There are fewer people on it than on the Roman Road. I didn’t see another soul the first time I ran there at the beginning of the month and yesterday I saw less than half a dozen people in two hours, all of them round Mutlow Hill.

The Roman Road is a thing of beauty. It’s my absolute favourite place to run. You pick it up just south east of Cambridge where it runs parallel to the modern road towards Linton. It runs almost all the way to Haverhill. There is a circular route which was established by the Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke which joins the two together. I use the Icknield Way or Harcamlow Way which runs through Balsham to get from one to the other.

Well, I try to anyway. I get lost whenever I leave the straight lines of the Dyke or the Roman Road. I know that where I need to be is somewhere “over there” but then the path I’m on goes all wiggly on me. I’m going to have to start carrying a compass and map with me. I check the route I want on a map before I set out but it never quite matches the terrain or I forget a turning or something. Anyway.

I’ve now done two runs over 20 miles along these routes and I’m smitten. The Roman Road is wide and relatively firm underfoot for most of its length. Fleam Dyke is narrow. You’re running along the top of the dyke and there are places where tree roots are a definite trip hazard for tired legs. There are steps up and down breaches in the dyke. I think it’s what experienced trail racers would call a “technical run.” It’s also breathtakingly beautiful in places.

Yesterday, I stopped for my final gel and a drink on Mutlow Hill. If the archaeologists are right, then people have been stopping here for 4,000 years. It’s a Bronze Age barrow and was an Anglo-Saxon meeting place. It’s one of the most beautiful places around here. I had one of those “who the fuck do I think I am” moments standing by a tree at the top of the hill. I thought that while it was very beautiful, the greenery was a bit sparse and yellow in the heat. The chalky, disturbed soil must be quite poor up there. I had completely forgotten that just because there was a path and a handful of people around, that even although people had been managing this landscape for four millennia, it was still a wild place. What reminded me was the sight of a couple of butterflies intent on a spot of lepidopterile rumpy-pumpy. It was windy up there and they were blown past me quite quickly but they still gave me pause: who am I to criticise the butterflies’ love pad?

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Less Than Handy

I am a complete plonker. Everybody who knows me knows this. Most are kind enough not to mention it, at least in my presence. I’m a clumsy plonker at the best of times and during the winter things only get worse. I can guarantee falling over at least a couple of times when it gets slippery in spite of wearing grippy shoes and trying really hard not to. I usually fall over in full view of attractive women or men with a physical sense of humour.

I was supposed to be running the Folksworth 15 on Sunday. The race was canceled because the very sensible organisers thought that they would have lots of Richards on their hands had they gone ahead with it. Instead of flogging my sorry arse round fifteen miles of hills through wind and snow, I headed off with some mates for twelve gentle miles around the Gogs, the Roman Road and Wandlebury.

It was beautiful. There was snow on the ground and more falling as we set off. The car park was icy and treacherous but once we got onto the snowier surface of the dog park, it became much easier to move. The route Phil chose is one I know a bit since it uses the same trails as Alan B does for his 9 Miles of Hills. The surfaces on the trails were mostly snowy and grip was good in the Saucony Peregrine trail shoes I was wearing. Things were a little more difficult when we came off the Roman Road and headed down the road from Worsted Lodge towards Babraham. The tarmac surface was as icy as the car park had been,

I fell over. Of course I did. I fell over like I have dozens of times. I was jogging gently down a slippery part of the road and had just told Andrew to be careful around here when my legs were no longer where they should have been. When I was at school, I once had the chance to play a set of kettle drums. I liked the resonance when I beat the skin and held the side of the drum. Ever since then, I’ve thought of kettle drums when I fall over. There is a proper thump of stomach and lungs and bladder and bowels all the other cavities of the body when you go down in a oner. I didn’t notice putting my hand out but I must have done because my left middle finger wasn’t bending inside its glove. I gave Andrew – who was asking me if I was all right – a very crooked bird and said I probably wasn’t.

We’d been right at the back of the group and I tottered the rest of the way down the hill to meet up with the others who had crossed the main road. I showed off my very crooked bird, the sight of which was beginning to make me queasy. It wasn’t painful at that point but I thought it might become painful when the endorphins began to subside. I worked very gently from the knuckles and pulled the finger straight again. Some of the others wanted to head back with me to make sure I was okay but I didn’t want to spoil their run further so I set off on my own back up the side of the main Cambridge-Haverhill road. My hand felt funny from time to time but it wasn’t painful and I began to push the pace a bit. Because we’d been bimbling along and chatting my legs were fine in spite of having run five miles or so and I was able to push a bit back up the hill.

A&E at Addenbrookes dealt with me swiftly and competently. I was in and out of the hospital in less than an hour and a half and that included about half an hour of me wandering around a silent and empty, Sunday morning hospital. They checked out my finger, x-rayed it, spotted a teeny-tiny chip floating around in the joint, gave me advice about keeping it mobilised and icing it from time to time and sent me on my way.

I woke up during the night with pain in my wrist. I couldn’t move my hand much in the morning so I headed back to A&E. I explained what was going on and again I was seen very efficiently. I couldn’t have more x-rays immediately but I was given another assessment. I had a second round of x-rays which showed a chip from my triquetral. I may have damaged my scaphoid as well but it would require bone scans to be certain since the images from my x-rays aren’t clear. My wrist wasn’t hurting on Sunday morning which is why I didn’t mention it then.

I haven’t trained since then, not really. I had a kettlebells class booked for today which I couldn’t attend. I won’t be going for a while. To add slight insult to minor injury, the very nice cross-training gloves I ordered arrived this afternoon. I ran on a treadmill at Green’s this evening and it was horrible. I’d planned a 50 minute session but could no longer be arsed after five minutes. I stuck it out for a mile, the absolute minimum I could justify as a run for the purposes of Jantastic. I managed a few Russian Twists having assured myself that I could hold the medicine ball and some planks resting on my elbows and toes. I couldn’t do the rest of that workout because it all involves resting my weight on my hands – twisting planks and press-ups and all that torturous modern jazz.

I’ll be doing more running on that dreadmill, at least until the ice disappears. My joy is as palpable as dysentery. For the first time in my life, I really, really want the thaw to come. So come on, I’d like a nice calm westerly and mild weather for the rest of the winter. No more snow days. No more ice. Sorry, kids.

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